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Springfield trucking company wants to repurpose a long-idle wood products mill in Saginaw

But Lane County says permit applications lack crucial details on truck traffic, effects on nearby river

SAGINAW — A Springfield trucking company has hit a permitting roadblock, delaying or derailing its plans to revive an old and long-idle wood products mill site in south Lane County.

The Lane County Planning Department denied Nelson Bros. Trucking’s application last month for permits to set up a log-and-lumber terminal at the former Westwood Lumber Co. plant in Saginaw.

Appealing the rejection, the company has a hearing scheduled for Thursday before a Lane County hearings official. The official won’t make a decision at the hearing but will issue a decision within 10 days. Nelson Bros. already has paid the county $4,140.50 in permitting fees.

The trucking company is out of room at its Industrial Avenue location in Springfield and looking to expand, said Rick Nelson, general manager at Nelson Bros. Trucking. He said the former Westwood mill in Saginaw would fit the growing company’s needs.

“That would be a good spot because it’s close to the freeway,” he said.

The 37-acre mill site is less than a mile west of Interstate 5, along East Saginaw Road between the Coast Fork of the Willamette River and Highway 99. It has been unused since at least 2012, according to county records. The site has quick access to I-5’s Saginaw interchange, with on- and offramps heading both north and south.

The dispute between the county and Nelson Bros. illustrates how it can be difficult­ to repurpose rural mill sites for other uses. The Sagi­naw property was used to produce veneer, plywood and other wood products for about 75 years, according to county records. The mill folded during the Great Recession and hasn’t been used in five years.

Nelson Bros. is asking the county for a green­way development permit, which would allow industrial activity along a tributary to the Willamette River, and permission to use an abandoned mill site.

The trucking terminal would be a place for the company to transfer­ loads of logs and lumber between trucks. Also, the company would restart part of the mill and use the mill’s kilns to dry veneer, according to county documents.

Nelson Bros. also would retrofit old buildings to create a 15,000-square-foot truck shop and a paint booth, install a water recycling­ system in an existing­ building to create a truck wash and add two large fuel tanks as well as LED lighting.

The county rejected the application, saying Nelson Bros. needed to provide more information about how it would safely and efficiently manage traffic and parking in and around the old mill, as well as loading and unloading cargo.

County planners want to know how much truck traffic the business would put onto county-owned East Saginaw Road, and whether that would unacceptably damage the road.

The county also requested more information about how the company would prevent­ erosion into the river and keep pollutants from flowing into it, and details about which buildings to retrofit.

The company has given the county some additional information, but it argues a truck traffic study is unnecessary­. The company says traffic would be similar to when the mill was operational.

Morris Nelson started Morris O. Nelson and Sons trucking in 1967, according to the Springfield business. It now operates as Nelson Bros. Trucking and Morris O. Nelson & Sons.

Nelson Bros. Trucking has 73 log trucks, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman David House. Morris O. Nelson & Sons has 31 rigs — 23 flatbeds, six van trailers and two tow trucks.

Lane County noted “the potential for water pollution, given that the proposal involves industrial use and trucking facilities on site that is largely paved. Sources of pollution may be created by oil, fuel and other truck maintenance and industrial mill materials discharged onto impervious surfaces throughout the site.”

Bend-based Bank of the Cascades owns the old mill, and Nelson Bros. Trucking has a contract to buy it, said Brent McLean, principal­ broker of Eugene Industrial Real Estate. McLean is the broker for the trucking company. He declined to disclose the purchase price for the mill or other details of the sale.

Until 2001, the mill was a part of Portland-­based Willamette Industries’ portfolio of facilities.

Cottage Grove-based Westwood Lumber signed a contract to buy the mill from Willamette Industries in late 2001 for $2.1 million, according to county records. The next year, Portland-based Weyerhaeuser took over Willamette Industries. In 2004, Weyerhaeuser finished transferring the mill to Westwood.

With the property came debt, and eventually Westwood fell into foreclosure. Court records show the company owed $19 million in loans related to the mill and other timber-related properties. The bank took the property in foreclosure in 2012.

Nelson Bros. Trucking is addressing the issues raised by the county, McLean said, and hopefully will earn approval for the new use of the old mill.

“It takes an old site that just has been sitting there as an eyesore for years and gets it working again,” he said.

The owner of a convenience store across Highway 99 from the old mill site said he’s excited about the possibility of economic activity — any activity — on the vacant land.

Ken Mitchell, who has owned Mitchell’s­ Mercantile for 40 years, said he’s particularly­ excited about the possibility of truckers frequenting his store. He said truckers tend to go to little shops to buy food, cigarettes and other items.

“It would be great for me,” he said.

Source of article click here : The Register- Guard

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